Types of Manslaughter Under Arizona Law: Understanding the Various Regimes

There are many levels of classification or types if you are ever charged with manslaughter under the provisions of Arizona (A.R.S.) §13-1103. Arizona does not follow the two broad types that are usual in many states as follows

A –  Voluntary Manslaughter

B – Involuntary Manslaughter

Instead, Arizona has the following classification:

Category 1: Manslaughter

Category 2: Negligent Homicide

The category under which you are charged will determine how your trial is conducted and the eventual sentence you get if you are convicted.

What does a manslaughter charge in Arizona mean for you?

The definitions that are given in the law are quite broad. The law will consider various scenarios under which you may be committing a crime. This allows the state to ensure that you get a fair trial and an appropriate punishment if you are eventually convicted.

These are the main routes through which you could be charged:

I – Assisting or Participating in a Suicide

You could be charged with intentionally or willfully committing suicide under the revised statutes. That essentially means killing someone as part of a suicide request. Arizona forbids assisted suicide.

This prohibition operates even where the assisted suicide is supervised by a doctor or other professional person. You will be charged with manslaughter if you participate in or help someone to commit suicide even if they have expressly asked you to do so.  

II – Provoked Killing

You are forbidden from killing anyone based on spur-of-the-moment anger no matter how much they have provoked you. For example, you will be charged with a crime if you kill someone you have found cheating with your spouse or intimate partner.

The law does recognize that sometimes, people kill each other due to provocation or in the heat of the moment. This could be due to a quarrel or even extreme surprise. The only difference from the more serious types of manslaughter or unlawful killing is that the court will recognize the fact that you did not plan this in advance.

III – Killing Someone Under Duress or Threat

You are forbidden from killing someone because someone has forced you to kill them. This is a crime even if you were under threat. However, the court will recognize the fact that you may not have wanted to or planned to kill the person.

Nevertheless, you must prove that a reasonable person would have been unable to resist the threat. Otherwise, the charge will be upgraded to willful killing. The court will consider if a normal (ordinary) person would not be able to resist the instruction given by the person forcing you to kill another.

IV – Reckless Killing

The fourth category are those types of killing that are accomplished through recklessness. Typically, this happens when the perpetrator is driving erratically or without a driver’s license. It can also happen if the driver has been driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

The prosecutor will still charge you with a crime even if you can prove that you never intended to kill the person. Many people may not be aware of this as sometimes, people rely on myths about the law rather than the provisions within the statutes.  

V – Killing an Unborn Child

This is a type of crime when you kill an unborn child by harming its mother. Arizona has created some exemptions to this. For example, if you are in the process of undertaking a medically licensed and lawful abortion, you may be given an exemption.

The same exemptions are used if you are providing a medical service to the mother and something goes wrong. Arizona is particularly interested in protecting doctors from malicious prosecutions through medical negligence cases.


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